Emmy Pérez’s poetry collection With the River on Our Face flows through the Southwest and the Texas borderlands to the river’s mouth in the Rio Grande Valley/El Valle. The poems celebrate the land, communities, and ecology of the borderlands through lyric and narrative utterances, auditory and visual texture, chant, and litany that merge and diverge like the iconic river in this long-awaited collection.
Pérez reveals the strengths and nuances of a universe where no word is “foreign.” Her fast-moving, evocative words illuminate the prayers, gasps, touches, and gritos born of everyday discoveries and events. Multiple forms of reference enrich the poems in the form of mantra: ecologist’s field notes, geopolitical and ecofeminist observations, wildlife catalogs, trivia, and vigil chants.
“What is it to love / within viewing distance of night / vision goggles and guns?” is a question central to many of these poems.
The collection creates a poetic confluence of the personal, political, and global forces affecting border lives. Whether alluding to El Valle as a place where toxins now cross borders more easily than people or wildlife, or to increased militarization, immigrant seizures, and twenty-first-century wall-building, Pérez’s voice is intimate and urgent. She laments, “We cannot tattoo roses / On the wall / Can’t tattoo Gloria Anzaldúa’s roses / On the wall”; yet, she also reaffirms Anzaldúa’s notions of hope through resilience and conocimiento.
With the River on Our Face drips deep like water, turning into amistad—an inquisition into human relationships with planet and self.
About the Author
Emmy Pérez earned her MFA from Columbia University and her BA from the University of Southern California. She is an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where she teaches in the MFA in creative writing and Mexican American studies programs.
“A stunning, powerful synthesis.”—The Monitor
“By connecting humanity to the river and its life, Pérez creates a vision of peace and tranquility that leaves one feeling hopeful.”—El Paso Times
“Pérez’s writing is floating on the river and the river is in all of our bodies, imprinted on our very faces.”—Arts and Culture Texas
“Radiant with place—specifically, the Southwest and the Texas borderlands—this new work from Pérez fiercely embraces the natural world. The sheer physicality of her poems can be intoxicating.”—Library Journal
“Though they don’t overlook the violence of the border, these poems blaze with the desert’s dazzling beauty.”—NBC Latino
“The poems celebrate communities and ecology of the borderlands through lyric and narrative utterances, auditory and visual texture, chant, and litany that merge and diverge like the iconic river in this long-awaited collection.”—Chicago Review of Books
“Emmy Perez sings the borderlands between America and Mexico, a contested land where identity and nationality are under constant surveillance.”—Signature
“In divided times, Emmy Pérez’s voice speaks not only from America, but from the Americas, north and south. A wise, healing poetry.”—Sandra Cisneros
“Emmy Pérez is a word musician and magician. This book has a powerful pull—it has secret places where part of you will reside. It is a good season when work like this is in bloom.”—Luis Alberto Urrea
“Emmy Pérez’s singular voice is voluminous in scope. Some of her best poems are as incantatory as the Rio Grande is long and leave us breathless in a very marvelous and satisfying way. The poet’s magical language shields us through checkpoints in an enclave of earth to which many of us have been woefully underexposed. These beautifully rendered poems speak to all of us who have an interest in life, liberty, land, and love.”—Reggie Scott Young